Pitt's Donald finds impact muted versus Bowling Green
DETROIT — Redemption is sweet.
Pitt was coming off an electrifying 54-yard punt return touchdown from freshman receiver Tyler Boyd that gave it a 17-3 lead over Bowling Green with less than seven minutes remaining in the first half Thursday in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
And the Panthers were on the cusp of regaining the ball when sophomores Nick Grigsby and Darryl Render sacked Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson on third-and-7.
But away from the play, Pitt All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald was caught jamming his hands into the face of a Falcons offensive lineman. He was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which resulted in an automatic first down for Bowling Green.
With new life, Johnson found senior tight end Alex Bayer across the middle of the field for a 29-yard touchdown seven plays later on a fourth-and-1 with under two minutes to play before halftime, cutting Pitt's lead to 17-10.
Just like that, the Falcons' seized momentum. But then Donald had his moment.
With less than a minute remaining in the game, he drilled Johnson for an 11-yard sack, forcing a third-and-31. The clinching sack sealed Donald's selection as Defensive Lineman of the Game.
However, it was mostly a frustrating game for Donald. He occasionally had his opportunities to work one-on-one against the Bowling Green's offensive line, but those were rare.
Donald was double-teamed most of the game, especially in the first half. Senior offensive linemen Dominic Flewellyn and David Kekuewa handled the bulk of the responsibilities. Donald finished the first half with two tackles.
Grigsby, senior Tyrone Ezell and freshman defensive lineman Shakir Soto led the Panthers with two sacks apiece, and Pitt had seven total.
Donald was arguably the nation's most tenacious defender this season and was certainly the most decorated. The senior won the Nagurski (defensive player of the year), Lombardi (lineman of the year), Outland (outstanding interior lineman) and Bednarik (outstanding defensive player) awards.
John Manzo is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt sophomore Coles leaves football team
- Pitt notebook: No surprises as Panthers settle on starting O-line
- Pitt, Penn State face competition for ticket sales
- Pitt trying to keep star playmaker Boyd fresh for the season opener
- Ex-Pitt basketball star Patterson signs overseas
- Pitt notebook: Chryst ready to ‘tighten things down’ for season
- Waiting to be named starter, Pitt QB Voytik keeps working hard
- Pitt has no shortage of talented running backs heading into season